A meditation on anima and animus in contemporary culture.

This is a piece that explores and exposes the existential crisis that is afoot in our world today. It is a look at the forces that have lead to the subjugation of nature (rather than working with nature’s inherent symmetry) and the subjugation of our own nature. This is about the shadow work we have not done. Insight and imagination can rectify the imbalance and undo the history of violence we have visited on ourselves and the earth.

English is the lingua franca of science and reductionist science has taken over the management of land and resources almost everywhere on earth. Dominance not alignment has brought great violence to our modern world.

Moby Dick explored the story of how nature will fight back (with consequences) this ill thought out approach. But we need a new mythic landscape now where the harmony implied, or naturally implicated, becomes center stage in our meditations and foremost in our general conduct and where it is seen to be at the heart of the very weave of our conversation.

The lack of awareness of these inner forces (and what seismic changes shaped them) means the outer won’t change.

Attention to them, when granted, does yield the changes needed. It’s why I see a connect between psychology and ecology – hence the passion that inspires sutranovum as a non-profit:

Some interviews caught my eye recently.

One with Paul McCartney – he was asked by Stephen Colbert what he thought of the K-Pop band BTS singing “Hey Jude.” George Harrison or John Lennon or Prince would have totally put BTS down. Musically, they have no talent. They have had a lot of plastic surgery and they are a band that has been fabricated in the same way the Spice Girls were.

What’s interesting about them as a phenomenon is that in ten years they and their music will be forgotten – which is not true of the Beatles. But both they and the Beatles are boy bands. McCartney was polite but you could tell there was nothing especially inspiring to him about their music. What is curious though is that they have a billion views on their top song on youtube. They are the zeitgeist of the moment just as the Beatles once were.

The difference is they are Asian and the Beatles were Western. I lived in South Korea and Christianity has swept in there in the last hundred years – but a lot of arranged marriages still happen. They are brokered through matchmakers and the parents always meet first. It may take several such matchmaker options (and meetings) before a meeting that leads to a marriage.

Romantic love only entered Western culture in the 12th Century. It started to blossom as a possibility in the 16th Century among European aristocrats and flowered into the kind of sonnet that you see here authored by Shakespeare.

But arranged marriages dominated for several centuries after that in the West (outside the aristocratic elite). Now in Asia the shift has been much slower and more recent. And BTS is a boy band – they aren’t musicians but they sing and they sing love songs and ballads – like the Beatles. The Beatles came out of a culture that had grappled with this stuff for centuries. BTS comes out of a culture that is new to it.

The other interviews that intrigued me was a very fun dialogue between Miriam Margolyes and Will-I-am. Also an interview with Little Richard. Both Will-I-am and Little Richard are gifted musicians. Little Richard was just off the scale in talent in many ways. And it seems to me that Will-I-am is clearly a closet homosexual. But what is curious is that he is really married to his mother and his mother is clearly a hardcore and fairly orthodox Christian.

And so the same demons beset both Little Richard and Will-I-am – certainly when it comes to sexuality – but they are decades apart. This says that though there are many changes in society – many things have not changed. Now Miriam Margolyes is open about her homosexuality and says she declares it openly because it gives people courage. But Will-I-am hides behind a busy schedule and pretend girlfriends. It’s a cultural thing he is handling. And it was interesting to see how their anima and animus danced on the sofa. She was in touch with her animus and he was frightened of his masculine nature being forthright. Incredible to see the contrast. It was like a movie of the Western challenge today. The feminine has gotten its power and the masculine has become boxed in. And neither are happy.

How do all of these things connect? The anima and the animus. After the world wars the world was fed up of hot wars and so the unresolved shadow work shifted into a Cold War. It was primarily a split in the Western culture – on the one side Russia and on the other the United States (both Western cultures – which may be defined as cultures that have partner dancing where there is touching – a direct product of the troubadour revolution of the 12th Century).

But then, what you see is that the anima (the feminine side of a man) and the animus (the masculine side of a woman) were challenged by these shifts. Women wanted less aggressive men. And they wanted more progressive roles. With BTS you have the East trying to take on the troubadour culture. To embrace romanticism. Which is not the focus of the arranged marriage in Korea. The focus is society – not the individual path. So you can feel the music is fabricated – it’s not coming out of the soul of the musicians. They have plastic surgery and represent a boy band that will be forgotten quickly. Their fans see pretty boys and project their animus on to them. But they aren’t really musicians. Not in the troubadour sense. Not the way the Beatles were.

And then you go to India and you go to a movie and the movie experience there is pure fantasy. You go, you indulge it and then you go back to your daily life and the raising of the family and the temple. In India, romantic love has never been taken as seriously as the love of God. Rama is chasing after Sita out of duty. He must do the right thing. He is not crumbling over the fallout of a lost soul mate.

He is complete in himself (he is an incarnation of Vishnu the god) – and he is doing the right thing by going after his wife. But the music of the Beatles – and the schism that happened in the West from the 12th Century onward is very different. It’s about finding a sense of completeness in the other. This is best mirrored in its darkest incarnation as the story of Sir Lancelot chasing after Lady Guinevere who has been stolen by the Green Knight.

He goes through 3 horses (they all die from exhaustion) and then finds himself exhausted and continuing in a cart. Something, mythologically, below the conduct of a Knight (he must ride on a horse). The unbalance we see in the modern world (especially the West) socially speaking is about letting the anima or the animus dominate. And neither should dominate. But that’s the state of our psyche today. It cannot see the difference between the forces that are symbolos (to unite) and diablos (to separate). And that is the actual focus of the psyche. And so people become lighthearted and shallow and gloss over what is important or numb and morose and gloss over what is important. But the issues are not worked out by glossing over what matters.

The consequence is much violence visited upon oneself and many social upheavals follow naturally from this – without an awakened understanding of this we see these quests for domination rather than genuine partnerships and the same madness unfolds with our relationship with the land – so stewardship and ecological wisdom and balance between the sexes. Such insights must become center stage for emotional intelligence to prosper. And it must engulf the very fabric of our lives if we are to consciously cherish outgrowing the victim mind.

Romantic love is about this sense of completeness that comes when erotic love is elevated to something much deeper…what the French called Amor. For the Indians, there is the recognition that the transcendent comes through oneself and one’s relationship with the divine. There is nowhere near the pressure on the nuclear family and on your partner that you find in the West. Now the American public is again tired of paying for so many wars. But the bigger issue is the war with itself. The divorce rate in America is 51%. Whereas it is 1% in India. And the main reason for the divorce rate is because of an imbalance between the anima and the animus.

Will-I-am cannot openly explore his homosexuality because he lives in the shadows of his mother’s disapproving animus (and he is married to her as he is a classic case of parentified child- she raised her children without them having a father figure – except a benign uncle who was an ex-American (orthodox Christian) football player – more orthodoxy). Just as Little Richard did for decades before.

The final interview that caught my eye was one of Stephen Colbert interviewing the Prime Minister of New Zealand in New Zealand. They have 5 million people and have managed to eradicate semi-automatic weapons after one mass shooting. The National Rifle Association has reigned supreme over American politics for decades and the school shootings have continued – because of the nihilistic tendency brought out by a materialistic society, not in touch with its spiritual needs. And not aware of the imbalance between the anima and the animus.

To Colbert who spends much of his professional life critiquing his President, it was like a little boy had found the antidote to American politics in the land of hobbits (he is obsessed with Tolkien) and in the guise of his own anima personified (Jacinda Ardern). He could dream in fairyland for a while of how the sexes could be balanced. Before he got back on a plane and returned to the “big boys” (irony intended) part of the schoolyard.

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